Don’t take Fees from Charitable Trusts

Sri S.Gurumurthy

Translation of his article, as appeared in Thuglak tamil weekly, dated 30–09–2020. The original author is Sri S.Gurumurthy ji.

In the year 1976, I was planning to start my own audit-firm. I had gone to take blessings from Kanchi Mahaswami. Instead of giving directives (do this, don’t do that), he was more of indicative in his instructions that predominantly revolved around two concepts — Honesty & integrity in my dealings and perform the duty based on our Dharma.Here, I would like to share one of those experiences.

Will you Bribe?

I prayed to him to bless me before the commencement of my own audit practice. After a moment of silence, he asked me — will you emulate the practices of certain others? I was puzzled and did not get the main purport of the question. He continued, Will you try to bribe the concerned officials? I did not expect that question. Immediately, I promised him that “I will not bribe anyone”. I further felt that he extracted that promise from me. I was visiting him, once a week and would listen his conversation with the other devotees. Once there was a question about incurring karma due to wrongful accumulation of money. Though, the answer was directed to someone, I thought, it was relevant to me. That thought continue to grow in me. Once, he was mentioning that lawyers & auditors should not take money from the charitable trusts. Again, it was more of relevance to me. In the next couple of years, there was an opportunity to take a huge sum of money as fees from a charitable trust. I am going to recount the interesting experiences associated with this transaction.

In need of 10 schools

Sri Ramnath Goenka
Sri Vedantham

In the year 1981, along with few of my friends from RSS, I was cycling to vellore city to get the darsan of newly installed linga/idol of Lord Jalakanteswara. We travelled from Chennai in the night,covering 145kms by cycle (even now, I am proud of this achievement). After the completion of the yatra, I had to come back to Chennai immediately by bus (with my cycle on the top of the bus). There was a planned meeting between us (self & Sri Goenka ji) and VHP leader, Sri Vedantham ji. In that meeting, Sri Vedantham ji was referring to the large scale conversions in Kanyakumari district (TN). Immediately, we need to start 10 schools and needed Rs. 25 lakhs. He solicited the entire donation from us. When Sri Goenka ji expressed his inability to match the requests, Sri Vedantham ji asked us to get the donation from somebody.

Sri Nani Palkhivala

Two days later, Sri Goenka ji & I went to Delhi. I was explaining to him about the situation in Kanyakumari district. Suddenly he said, “Guru, there is a Rs 50 crores tax case filed on Sri Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Even,they have consulted Sri Nani Palkhivala. He had advised to pay the tax. Can you look into that case?”. Sri Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a world famous expert on Yoga & Meditation. He has been staying in Delhi Indian Express guest house as a guest of Sri Goenka ji. I have met him once. “Ramnath ji, when Sri Palkhivala ji has said no, what can I do about that case?”. Then he replied, “remember in 1977, you helped to over-write Sri Nani ji’s opinion on a particular case and got a different opinion from the authorities. Your line of thinking is different from others. Why don’t you try it?”.

Guru, your fees is Rs.25 Lakhs

Next day, I received the papers related to Yogi ji. For the period 1967–1974, Sri Yogi ji had received Rs. 26 crores as donation. Sri Yogi ji in his capacity as the managing trustee, had appointed few of his relatives as the officials to manage it. In the opinion of Govt tax authorities, the relatives were receiving money beyond their normal earning capacity. Due to that, they want to remove the tax exemption clause for the trust and wanted to levy Rs.50 crores as tax & penalty. Sri Goenka ji, “Guru, is there a way out of this?”

I replied, “Ramnath ji, as per Hindu traditional law, there are no relatives for the sannyasis. Let me come to a conclusion after studying it completely. He also further said that I would help to get Rs.25 lakhs as fees from Sri Maharishi Mahesh Yogi ji”. Needless to say, I was stunned. Why? Because, If I receive the fees from Sri Maharishi Mahesh Yogi ji’s trust, I would be violating the promise given to Sri Kanchi-Mahaswami. Hence, I had decided not to take the fees. Coincidentally, the fees was matching the aforesaid donation request. I was contemplating on the following line, there must be some connection between these two. Whatever is the amount, it would be spent on Kanyakumari cause.

No relatives for the Sannyasis

I went through the judicial decrees based on traditional Hindu law. Then, I explained the legal position: Upon accepting the role of sannyasa, a person would be considered civil-dead in the eyes of law. All the assets would go to his legal-hear/descendants. In the post-sannyasa period, the assets would go to his disciples (Since there are no relatives). His disciple would be considered as the legal-heir. This applies only to sannyasis, who had accepted that position formally. It would not apply for self-proclaimed sannyasis.

If there is a way to prove that Sri Yogi ji adopted sannyasa in a formal manner then there are no relatives for him. He has only disciples in the eyes of law. Hence, the claim by tax authorities would become null & void. Therefore, they cannot withdraw the tax exemption clause for the trust. This view would emerge in the combined reading of tax law & Hindu law. Upon hearing the new interpretation, like before, Sri Goenka ji embraced & blessed me, in his excitement. Next day, we met Sri Yogi ji. We explained our new understanding. Then, he had mentioned that he took sannyasa from Dwaraka Sankaracharya ji. Next day, he produced all the relevant documents. We took an opinion from legal-expert and presented the same to tax authorities. They accepted our position and closed the case, without penalizing. Finally, the case that was unsolved for many years, was closed in a month.

I don’t want the fees; Please give it to Kanyakumari cause

Sri Goenka ji called me and told, “Sri Yogi ji is calling us. I have spoke to him about the fees. He wanted to communicate to you, directly”. Then very hesitatingly shared my earlier promise to Sri Kanchi-Mahaswami. I told him that I do not want the fees and let us pass it on to VHP for setting up 10 schools in Kanyakumari. Sri Goenka ji was in a state of shock. He was compelling me to take at least the half and pass on the remaining. I stood firm on my decision. He was lamenting that I would take many years to earn that money and took me to meet Sri Yogi ji.

Sri Yogi ji was very happy about the completion of the case and wanted to give the fees. Then my position was explained by Sri Goenka ji to Sri Yogi ji, who felt amazed. The Sri Yogi ji had mentioned, “ I would pass on Rs.25 Lakhs to you and you can decide to use as you want”. Again, I had to negate that saying it would lead to payment of taxes by me and requested him to pass on the donation directly for Kanyakumari cause. He had agreed with a condition that along with the schools, there should be a Veda-patashala. As per his wish, a land was acquired next to the Goddess temple at Kanyakumari and a Veda-patashala was established. It did not continue.I am happy to say that 7 schools are functioning.

Everything is His Grace

After the completion of everything, Sri Goenka ji was asking, “If that decree had not come from Sri Kanchi-Mahaswami, would you have accepted the fees?”. I replied that “without His Grace, the event would not have happened at all”. I have not lost anything; In-fact, I have gained only — Sri Goenka ji would spread the message in the coming years and helped me to gain a name; My skills were recognized in the legal circle; It helped to gain more respect from Sri Yogi ji & Goenka ji. I was invited by Sri Yogi ji to Switzerland to act as his adviser. Even, If I had spent crores of rupee, such reputation was not easy to built.

I still ruminate over one of the most gratifying experiences in my life.

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